Parshas Terumah brings us back from the technicalities of Parshas Mishpatim and returns us to the story of the Bnei Yisrael in the desert. After receiving the Torah and becoming a nation, the Jewish People are now ready to have Hashem’s Shechinah rest amongst them on a constant basis. To this end, Hashem tells Moshe to build a Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Mishkan will house the Shechinah and will be the central location for all sacrifices and services to Hashem while the Jews are in the desert. Many of the same vessels that were used in the Mishkan were eventually used in the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) several hundred years later.
One of the vessels made at this time was the Menorah. The pesukim go into great detail describing exactly how the Menorah should look, but the way that it was actually built is a source of great discussion in the Midrash. The pasuk says, “וְעָשִׂיתָ מְנֹרַת זָהָב טָהוֹר מִקְשָׁה תֵּעָשֶׂה הַמְּנוֹרָה” “You shall make a Menorah of pure gold, beaten out shall the Menorah be made” (Shemos 25:31). Rashi in his commentary on this pasuk brings out two points. The first is that the word “מִקְשָׁה” “beaten out”, teaches us that the Menorah must be made completely out of one piece of gold. You cannot make it in pieces and then connect them together which is no easy task when dealing with something as complicated and intricate as the Menorah. Secondly, he comments on the word “תֵּעָשֶׂה”. The proper form of the word for the act of making in Hebrew is “תַּעֲשֶׂה”, the form used here, “תֵּעָשֶׂה”, means that it was made itself. Rashi brings a Midrash which explains that Moshe could not figure out how to make the Menorah, so Hashem told him to throw a block of gold into a fire and the Menorah came out already fully formed.
Later on in Pasuk 40, the pasuk says, “וּרְאֵה וַעֲשֵׂה בְּתַבְנִיתָם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה מָרְאֶה בָּהָר” “See and construct, according to their form that you are shown on the mountain” (25:40). Rashi explains that Moshe was first shown the form of each vessel by Hashem on Har Sinai and then built it based on that picture. The reason this pasuk is said specifically by the construction of the Menorah is because the reason that Hashem showed Moshe these visions in the first place was because Moshe was confused as to the exact form of the Menorah’s construction, so Hashem showed him a vision of the Menorah made out of fire, after which it is implied that Moshe proceeded to build the Menorah. This is a direct contradiction to the Midrash we said in Pasuk 31! The Midrash here seems to say that Moshe built the Menorah himself while the Midrash earlier said that it was made by itself when Moshe threw the gold into the fire?
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (known as “Mizrachi”), a commentary on Rashi, tries to reconcile these two Midrashim. He brings a third Midrash which says that Hashem described to Moshe several times how the Menorah should be made and Moshe just could not grasp it. Hashem then showed him a picture of the Menorah out of fire and still Moshe could not understand it. Hashem finally sends Moshe to Betzalel, the architect of the Mishkan (See 31:1-5), who immediately built the Menorah. Moshe was flabbergasted and proclaimed, “How many times did Hashem show me how to make the Menorah and I could not figure it out, but you didn’t even see it and were able to make it! Maybe you were there when Hashem showed me how to make it” (Tanchuma). This Midrash says that Betzalel made the Menorah! We now have three potential builders of the Menorah, Moshe, Betzalel, and that it made itself. So who really built the Menorah? Where do we fit this third Midrash into the Menorah storyline?
The Mizrachi organizes the Midrashim as follows; the first thing that happened was that Hashem showed Moshe the form of the Menorah in fire. Moshe had a lot of difficulty understanding how to make the Menorah, so Hashem told him to go to Betzalel. He then explains that the Midrash we brought that Betzalel made the Menorah must be the same Midrash as the Menorah being made by itself after being thrown into the fire. If this is not true, then how did Betzalel have any idea how to build the Menorah, the most complicated vessel to make?
But why would Moshe have been shocked that Betzalel knew how to make the Menorah, the Midrash says that Hashem told Moshe to throw the gold into the fire and we are now explaining that that is all Betzalel did! Why would Moshe have been surprised at Betzalel doing what Hashem told him to do? The Mizrachi explains that Hashem must have only told Moshe to go to Betzalel with the gold but not that he should throw it into the fire. Moshe figured that Betzalel with his vast knowledge of architecture would know how to build the Menorah and was therefore very surprised to see him just throw it into the fire and watch the Menorah pop out fully formed. Because of this, Moshe exclaimed that Betzalel must have been privy to secrets of Hashem that Moshe himself didn’t even know! (As to how Betzalel knew these secrets, I believe that this is what the pasuk refers to when it says that Hashem filled him with “the spirit of God” [See 31:3]).
The Gur Aryeh and the Sfas Emes explain these Midrashim by saying that this teaches us that everything that we accomplish in life is only because Hashem decided to give it to us. However, before He gives us anything, we must make the first effort to show that we really want it. Once we make that first effort, Hashem sees our desire and helps us finish our struggles, so in reality, it is our efforts which bring us to our ultimate goal. May we always have this strong motivation to accomplish good and with that little effort on our part, Hashem will take us the rest of the way.
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